Beer ‘n Cupcakes

Well, I failed to make it 30 days on my attempt for a Whole30. Shocker! Oh well, I’ll continue eating my whole foods, because I like eating stuff that is real. Though, going to the grocery store is pretty depressing because there’s aisle upon aisle of fake but delicious crap. Like cookies or double chocolate malt balls [ I guess a few double chocolate malt balls won’t hurt :)]

What made me cave? Well, it was this:

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Abita Strawberry Harvest. It tastes like late-spring/early-summer nights on the patio, eating crawfish and drinking with friends…funded by book buy back money. I love it.

If you aren’t familiar, the Abita Brewing Company is a craft brewery located in Abita Springs, LA. It’s located about 70 miles east of where I went to school. They offer several different brews year round: Amber, Restoration Ale (Pale Ale), Andygator and Turbo Dog. In addition, there are also a couple seasonal brews: Mardi Gras Bock, Red Ale (I DO NOT like this one, ew), Chrismas Ale, Satsuma and everybody’s favorite: Strawberry Harvest. It’s made with real Louisiana strawberries, it’s sweet but not offensively so. When it hits the shelfs, word starts spreading like wild fires. Now that I’m back in Texas, it takes a little bit longer to reach us. But when it does, you have to stock up. I might buy it by the case. Don’t judge.

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Note: I was not paid for this endorsement, but if anybody at Abita is reading I will gladly accept your samples or donations.

So, I kind of went off on a tangent, I didn’t intend this post to be about beer, but rather strawberries. I don’t care for them except for the beer and these cupcakes.

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The recipe is based on one from the famous LA cupcake bakery: Sprinkles.  It’s super easy and really delicious. I made these using my fresh strawberries from the CSA.

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CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup Fresh Strawberry Puree (About 2/3 Cup Whole Fresh Strawberries)

1 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour

1 Tsp Baking Soda

¼ Tsp Salt

½ Cup Milk

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Room Temp)

1 Cup Sugar

1 Large Egg

2 Large Egg Whites

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar until well combined. Reduce speed and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.
  4. With mixer on low, slowly add half of flour mixture. Mix until just blended.  Add milk mixture. Then add remaining flour and until blended.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until the tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely before icing.

Note, the original recipe calls for baking powder. However, I had better results using baking soda. Also, these cupcakes will not be pink. If you just have to have a pink strawberry cupcake, add some red food coloring but it really isn’t necessary.  If you are looking for an intense strawberry flavor, I’d recommend cooking the puree to almost like a syrup so you get more flavor but not more liquid.

STRAWBERRY FROSTING

1 ¾ Cup Powdered Sugar

½ Cup Unsalted Butter, Firm

¼ Tsp Vanilla Extract

3 Tablespoons Strawberry Puree

Pinch of Salt

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add powdered sugar, beat until well combined. Add vanilla and strawberry puree, mix until just blended. Do not over beat, it should be dense and creamy.

Note, I halved the originally recipe and felt it was plenty for 12 cupcakes. Unless you LOVE frosting, then you should. This will give you a lovely pink frosting – without any dye. However, don’t be tempted to dumb extra puree in. Again, I recommend you cook it down to syrup or you’ll end up with a very disturbing texture to your frosting. Like it’s melting off the cupcake, not that I did that or anything.

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Playing Ketchup

Well, the worst thing you could do when you start a new blog is not blog for a whole month. Honestly, it hasn’t felt like a month. I guess time truly does fly when you’re having fun…or something like it. I’ve been pretty busy and had to stay late a few weeks at work, then I went on vacation for 9 days and last week I was straight up lazy. So now I’m playing ketchup…(You’ll get my clever play on words shortly).

So, where did I go on my vacation you ask??

 

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Just kidding, I went to Roseville, IL – which is equally awesome. [That photo is from my Cali (specifically, La Jolla) trip a few summers back. ]

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That’s more like it…but this photo is actually in Peoria. Close enough!! It was a good time, we had a fiesta for my mom’s birthday which included our annual cupcake war. Sadly, I was dethroned… by ONE point. I’d really like a recount. Apparently, my cupcakes didn’t look good, but they tasted amazing. Personally, I think taste should be the most important factor. But I am the all time champ, just saying…I made a caramel apple cupcake which was an apple-y flavored vanilla cake and a caramel fudge frosting. It’s based on a recipe I found while making a family recipe cookbook for my cousin Josh’s wedding last year.  We also danced, grilled out, danced, saw some fireworks (it had like 20345 grand finales, according to Russell), danced, played some board games, and we did A LOT of dancing.

And of course, we had to make the trip to the Club for some of those “world famous” shoestring onion rings. Seriously, best onion rings ever. I decided to branch out and try something new but don’t even remember what it was, but I enjoyed it later because I was so full from the onion rings.

Club 41 also got some new menus a few years ago and it now includes cocktails, this is a shout-out to my China people – ZOMBIES!!!

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We also did a little gambling in Bloomington, IA…They had “my machine”. Sadly, I didn’t win anything.

 

ImageIt was a good time and I was sad to come home.

So when we got back, I decided to do a Whole30. For 30 days, you don’t eat grains, added sugar (artificial or natural, but fruit is okay), dairy or legumes (beans or peanuts). It wasn’t as hard as I thought…I support any kind of “diet” that lets you eat a boatload of avocados and olives. Those are 2 of my 3 favorite things… If cheese was allowed, I’d be set for life. We’ll see how it goes, I already feel like I have so much more energy…At 4PM, I don’t want to crash. And, my cravings for chocolate are pretty much gone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to go to Chic-Fil-A everyday (i blame my co-worker Renee for that addiction 🙂 ) So now that brings us to the ketchup portion of this post, I decided to make my own ketchup and it was super easy. 

Easy Homemade Ketchup

12 Oz Tomato Paste (look for something where the only ingredient is TOMATOES)

1.5 C Water

2 TBS Distilled Vinegar

1/2 tsp Garlic

1/2 tsp Onion Powder (I used Onion Salt, b/c that’s what I have)

1/4 tsp All Spice (Note, all spice is it’s own thing, it’s not a conglomeration of other spices as some often thing)

– Stir over low heat until desired consistency is reached. Then pour (hopefully you have a funnel, unlike me) into your container of choice. This stuff is good. Really good.

I got the recipe from here:  http://notinmoderation.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/nailed-it-ryan-wilders-wicked-easy-paleo-ketchup/

I enjoyed a nice steak and some homemade baked matchstick sweet potato fries.

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Travel Notes a.k.a “bitching”: The trip started off on the wrong foot, at 10 AM on Friday morning we got an email saying that our flight at 4PM flight to Chicago was cancelled so they rebooked us on a noon flight. Umm… what? So we called back and they couldn’t get us out until 530PM. Sweet, well the guy didn’t mention is was 5:30 PM on Saturday, a full 24 hours after we were originally supposed to leave. So I called back again, and was able to get an earlier flight. Everything seemed to go smoothly, we got into O’hare early and were able to stop at Starbucks because our gates were about 4 apart. Skip to me standing at baggage claim in the Quad Cities, slowly I realize that I’m the only one still waiting. I go to the service desk and the guy says my bag is still in Chicago and it won’t get there until the next flight which gets in a 430 (It’s around noon at this point). Ok, that’s fine, can you deliver it b/c I’m driving an hour away. Then he looks it up in his notebook and says that it’s going to be $68. Umm, no it’s not. I will say this, they ended up waving the fee and the delivery guy was super nice, but United SUCKS. I won’t even get started on the lack of empathy and just general lack of service provided by customer SERVICE. We did have flight issues that put us behind schedule by about 8 hours on the way back. Neither were weather related. Honestly, I understand that stuff happens, but when just about everything that can go wrong does and you don’t apologize that’s where I lose my patience. I can’t imagine how i’d react in this situation: http://abcnews.go.com/US/united-passengers-stranded-days-china/story?id=16784289

Week in Review

This past week was crazy busy at work as I had to fit a week’s worth of stuff into 3 days then went to San Antonio for a meeting on Thursday. So I guess I’ll recap the past week.

Last weekend, I went to Phoenicia downtown. It’s this really cool specialty store with a focus on Mediterranean foods, but they have all sorts of stuff. I could smell the garlic and fresh bread in the parking garage. I ended up buying some fresh pita, a really thin flat bread called lavash, olives (for an olive lover this place was heaven, there were so many varieties), humus, 2 spinach berogs, tabbouleh and a can of diet coke for only $13 and some odd change. I thought it was a heck of a deal price wise and I didn’t even have to pay for parking. It looks like they have a jazz brunch on sunday’s with pomegranate Mimosa’s. I DEFINITELY want to try those. So for dinner than night, we ate a bunch of veggies from the box with pita and humus, the berogs (I’m not sure I enjoyed it, but that didn’t keep me from finishing it) and the tabbouleh.

Since I worked late every night, I used the pita and lavash to make little pizzas. The lavash made a really thin & crispy crust – I really liked that. On each I added some bell peppers, onions and tomatoes from my csa then also some frozen artichoke hearts I bought at HEB. I also added a few pepperoni that I keep in my freezer (I keep them in there because it’s a lot harder to shove them in my mouth so they stay longer).

 

The toppings on the pita pizza were the same except I added some fresh arugula tossed in a little EVOO & balsamic vinegar with a dash of salt. I got that idea from here (I really want to make her crusty bread!!)

 

In my box this week, I had a lot of the same stuff: arugula, peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts (last of the season they said), green beans and potatoes. I didn’t get a chance take pictures of any of the stuff because I got stuck in the bank until 8PM, then had to pack for San Antonio and went to bed early (or at least attempted).

I had a 7AM flight to San Antonio which had me at the airport super early. When I got on the plane it was like 1000 degrees and smelled like a port a potty after a game day. Then we sat on there, in the heat and smell,  for an hour before they told us anything. Apparently, they needed to do something to repair the oxygen system and then fill out the paperwork. So we were supposed to land in SA at 830 and didn’t leave Houston until 820. I understand that things happen, but I don’t like that there was no communication. I found out the flight was delayed via text message (twice) before they said anything over the speaker. Thanks Southwest! One a positive note, I stayed at the Valencia and they’ve added some lamps since the last time I stayed there which was nice. I could actually see my hand in front of my face. The hotel rate also included an $18 voucher for breakfast that they let me use for room service. I enjoyed having breakfast delivered and the coffee was sooo good.

One new and exciting addition to the CSA box that I didn’t mention: SWEET CORN. To quote a co-worker, “I love kern. If you like corn it’s just corn, if you love it – it’s KERN” 🙂  So tonight, I made turkey burgers with homemade pickles and corn on the side.

One-Hour Pickles

I found this recipe by googling the title above. Surprisingly, something popped up. It was a little tangy on its own, but really complemented the fresh arugula and tomato on the burger.

1 Cup Vinegar

1/2 Cup Water

1 tsp , pickling spice (I used McCormick’s)

1 cucumber

dash of coarse salt

1 tbsp honey or sweetener of choice

fresh dill (optional)

(1) Slice cumber into fairly thin and equal slices. Place into a clean plastic or glass container with lid.

(2) Combine remaining ingredients in sauce pan and bring to a boil.

(3) Pour hot brine over cucumber and let soak for at least an hour.

The longer it sits the better it tastes. It should last 10 days. If I make again, I’d wait to add dill to the brine after boiling so it’d look more appetizing. But it’s purely cosmetic.

 

 

p.s. I took all these pictures from my phone so my apologies if it’s a little blurry.

 

 

What’s In The Box Wednesday

On Wednesdays, I get to pick up my veggie box from my CSA. It’s so easy to do. The drop off location I picked is a church around the corner from my office. I just pull up and the boxes are stacked in a little side corridor. It takes all over 2 mins and is soooo much easier than going to the grocery store – not to mention tastier. This week we got some good stuff: Arugula, Bell Pepper, Cucumbers, Grape Tomatoes, Green Beans, Micro Greens, New Potatoes, Peaches, Slicer Tomatoes and Squash.

The other day I was trying to figure out what to do with my cucumbers before they go soft and I settled on tzatziki – a dilly, cucumber yogurt dip. It’s tastey and soooo easy to make. Plus it makes some of those hard to eat foods (for me, raw tomatoes) go down easier.

Here’s a simple recipe I used:

E-Z Tzatziki

~ 8 oz of Greek Yogurt (I used half a 17.6Oz  container FAGE 0%)

1 Cucumber (I used two small csa cucumbers that were able equal to a store bought one)

1/4-1/2 Lemon (Depends on Taste)

Fresh Chives, Chopped (It was probably equal to about 2 TBS)

Fresh  Dill, Chopped (2 TBS, I like it extra dilly)

Salt & Pepper, To Taste

(1) Slice and remove seeds from cucumber. Then using a potato peeler or cheese grater, shave off strips of cucumber. I did half and half. For me, it was a lot easier to use the peeler but it resulted in much larger strips of cucumber. I’m okay with that though.  When done, lightly salt and leave in fridge for about an hour. After which, squeeze out excess water. The more you squeeze the better the final product. Set aside.

(2) Combine yogurt with juice from lemon. I used 1/2 a lemon because I really like the tang of the yogurt mixed with the citrus juice. Then add chives, dill and a dash of S&P. Give cucumber another squeeze then add yogurt mix. Stir.

The dip will taste awesome at this point, but don’t eat it all yet. The longer it sits, the better the flavor. This made about 4 servings (patties and dip) for me. Kind of sad it’s gone, but glad I still have the stuff to make another batch.

For the past two days, I’ve had this with assorted veggies and some turkey meatloaf style patties for dinner & lunch. For these, I used 1lb lean ground turkey, shredded medium zuchini [squeeze out excess moisture], an egg, 1/4 oatmeal & spices to taste. Grilled them on each side using my Staub Grill Pan then stuck them in the over to make sure done all the way through.

Movin To The Country, Gonna Eat A Lot Of Peaches…

Millions of peaches, peaches for me…

Millions of peaches, peaches for free…

Millions of Peaches, Peaches for Me

Any time I hear the word peaches, I immediately sing that President’s song in my head. That song was IT in middle school. So were the Spice Girls and Cake. In retrospect, we  had a very interest taste in music.

Anyways, the past few weeks I’ve gotten peaches in my CSA box, but I’m not the biggest fan. My mom told me to make muffins but I was lazy & out of town on the weekends so I let them go to waste. However, today I was craving pancakes and decided to make peach pancakes. I slightly modified a basic pancake recipe from Martha Stewart. It turned out great – tasted like a slice of fresh peach pie. I served it with some maple syrup, eggs and thick cut bacon. Yum!

Fresh Peach Pancakes

1 C. all-purpose flour                        1 Tbs sugar                    1 Tbs brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder                         1/2 tsp milk                    dash nutmeg

dash ground cloves                           1/2 tsp vanilla               1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 C. milk                                              1 large egg                    1 tbs oil/melted butter

1 C diced fresh peaches

(1) In a small bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.

(2) In medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (except peaches). Slowly add dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated.  There may still be some lumps and Martha says that’s okay.

(3) Add diced peaches to mix and give it a quick stir. Then cook as usual. However, be sure to push down to make sure batter cooks around the peaches. You can press down to see if they are done inside. It’s like a cake, if it springs back it’s done.

I’ll post pictures, but I should warn you that I make ugly pancakes. Also, I either severely burn or undercook them. Despite their ugly looks, these pancakes tasted awesome.  Make these ASAP!

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My First Post!

Back the in the Summer of 2009, I was between 1st and 2nd Year in Business School and without a job. I spent those few months traveling for the most part with two weeks in China, Illinois, a week in California (LA & San Diego), D.C., NYC and then Wisconsin.  While in Wisconsin, I stayed at my aunt’s house and she “subscribed” (for the lack of a better word) to this thing called a CSA. It was a box full of different veggies that got delivered to their door. So, what is this CSA thing? CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Essentially, you buy a “share” in a local farm and in return get a weekly delivery of fresh and locally grown produce.

So a few months ago, I decided to see if there was anything in my area. Come to find out, there is! I signed up for this wonderful farm called “Wood Duck Farm” in Cleveland, TX. It’s not far from where I grew up and has pick up locations all across Houston.  It’s $240 for a partial share and $350 (I think) for a full share which is for the full 10 weeks. So that breaks down to only about $24 for all this wonderful produce. Plus, it stays longer than stuff from the grocery store because it’s much fresher. So far, I’ve loved everything I’ve gotten. This includes: broccoli, kale, cucumbers, peaches, lots of greens (in the winter), cabbage, radishes, tomatoes (multiple kinds), potatoes, strawberries, lettuce, micro green, bell peppers, onion (I haven’t bought an onion at the store in a month or two and these taste fantastic), scallions and much much more! As is typical in agriculture, some weeks are bountiful and some weeks you are like “MORE KALE?! NOOOOOOO!!!!!”. I’m now finishing up my second season with the farm and look forward to what summer will bring us. I will definitely share the different things I make on here.

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